A Warhammer Underworlds Blog & Podcast

The Shadeborn

Nethermaze has arrived and in this article we are taking a look at The Shadeborn! This article is part of a bunch of articles going live on the website today including the reviews of Nethermaze (including the universals included), The Exiled Dead, and Skittershank’s Clawpack.

It’s been a hectic week for content! Zach and I have recorded 5 podcast episodes this week and I’ve written 4 articles (including this one).

In today’s article I’ll be covering everything you need to know about The Shadeborn. This includes the lore, fighter cards, 32 faction specific cards, and the miniatures themselves. I know a lot of people are excited for this warband – there are a lot of aelf enthusiasts out there. Me especially since I love the Dark Elves of the Old World.

A special thank you to Games Workshop for providing me with this review copy ahead of time for free.

Into the shadows!

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Slythael Shadestalker is a lady on a mission. She’s been tasked with eliminating a seditious group of Witch Aelves who have moved against Morathi. Unbeknownst to her followers, she’s also been tasked with finding whatever powerful artifacts and magic she can get her hands on to bring back to her mistress. She’s an assassin who also has the leader and flying trait.

Keeping in trend with aelven leaders, Slythael rocks 4 wounds which is quite a welcome sight. 4 move, 2 dodge, and a range 2 attack action that hits for 2 smash, 2 damage makes for a fantastic profile. But it doesn’t stop there. Her weapon has a special rule called malleable which allows her to pick either cleave or ensnare before she rolls dice. That’s incredible. Talk about a great way to consistently make accurate attacks.

She’s also got a very cool rule called Shadow Ambush. This effectively allows her to charge onto any cover or edge hex on the map. Keep in mind cover hexes refer to gloom hexes and the cover hexes that come printed on boards. The amount of reach she has in unparalleled in this game. It feels like [whu card type image iconInescapable Vengeance]Inescapable Vengeance card image - hover on demand while charging which is fantastic. This is especially more potent with that range 2 profile.

The inspire condition for this warband is the same for all fighters. They have to make an attack action against an enemy fighter that already has a wound counter(s). It’s not the easiest inspire in the world but it’s certainly doable. You’ve got a mix of weapon profiles that can combo well with this, and you can always reach into the gambit deck to help streamline it.

When she does inspire, her weapon goes to 3 smash and gains grievous which allows her to potentially strike for 3 damage fairly consistently. She is in contention for being the most accurate fighter in the game with only Drepur giving her competition.

She’s your main damage dealer, your beat-stick, and biggest threat. Keep her protected and be smart with your charges – they can be very deadly.

Drusulla Vyserax is out here just trying to have some fun and murder some seditionists along the way. Like most aelves in this game, she’s only got 3 wounds. That’s not the best but it stays in theme with other warbands. 4 move and 1 dodge round her out. That’s not the most survivable profile, but there are ways we can buff that. She’s also an assassin.

The best part about her is her attack action, it’s a range 2, 3 fury, 2 damage attack. That’s pretty accurate. Un-inspired she has an ability called Shadow Mark which allows her to re-roll one dice in her defense rolls when she’s in a cover hex. This helps a bit with survivability, especially with how they can create their own cover hexes through some cool mechanics.

Upon inspiring she gains that coveted 2 dodge and her range 2 attack jumps to 3 damage. It’s a rare sight on non-leader fighters. That alone is huge and very good. She also gains a scything attack that’s range 1, 2 smash, 1 damage with grievous. To add some icing on top, she gains Shadow Ambush but at the cost of Shadow Mark. Which honestly is fine because she’s at 2 dodge.

She’s effectively a mini-Slythael, albeit a lot easier to kill pre-inspiration. [whu card type image iconGreat Strength]Great Strength card image - hover is a great card for as it gets her to 4 damage and bumps up that scything attack to 2. Be smart with her as she can be a great source of high damage as you get into the latter stages of the game.

Valyssa Umbrael prefers to kill her victims up close and in a flurry of blades. She sports the assassin keyword and has the same top stat-line as her sister-in-arms: 4 move, 1 dodge, 3 wounds. Unlike Drusylla, she has a melee attack that hits for 3 fury and only deals 1 point of damage. This attack does have combo which not only opens up combo weapons for her, it also pairs well with her second attack action. It has a special keyword called flurry which allows her to react and make a second attack (off combo) which hits for 2 smash and deals another point of damage.

This is cool for a couple reasons. If you give her damage, she can do a lot of damage very quickly – if you hit. Secondly, she has the ability to inspire herself in one activation – again if you hit.

She also has Shadow Mark. When inspired, she gets 2 dodge. Additionally, her combo attack gains grievous and her flurry attack gains cleave. That’s neat and can open up a couple niche situations for you. And like the other fighters in this warband, she trades Shadow Mark for Shadow Ambush.

Ultimately, I think she is your weakest fighter but she has a lot of potential. I think in some games, she can rise to occasions by having some crazy moments with her attacks.

Sylarc Greyblood, despite being an assassin and level 1 wizard, ranks as the lowliest member of the group due to the matriarchal society of his people. Like his comrades, he has 4 move, 1 dodge, and 3 wounds.

He’s got a melee attack that hits for 2 damage off 2 smash – it’s a neat and respectable attack. The range 3, 3 fury, 1 damage Repeater Handbow is much more interesting to me. That plink damage is going to setup a lot of inspires while pestering foes from a safe distance. My favorite part about his kit though is his Dark Lamprey spell action. Sure, it’s not too reliable with only a 66% percent cast rate but it’s neat nonetheless. It allows him to deal 1 damage to an enemy fighter within 4 hexes or an enemy on the board in a cover hex. That’s a huge threat range.

When inspiring via the same conditions as everyone else, he also goes to 2 dodge. The only other change is that his handbow gets ensnare, which is a nice to have.

I find Sylarc to be the most interesting fighter in the warband. He’s got a lot of utility and ranged fighters, and wizards, will always pique my interest.

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Objectives:

A Vicious Kill: On paper, vulnerable seems like a cool mechanic. In application, it’s not a very reliable one. Over the course of the game, I am sure an enemy fighter might end up being vulnerable but it’s going to hard to get consistently. And if it when pops up, will you have this card in your hand?

Rating: C

All is Shadow: The secondary condition is [whu card type image iconConquest]Conquest card image - hover which is very tough to do in this current meta. Additionally, I don’t think your warband is survivable enough to have 2 fighters consistently make it to the third end phase, and be in a cover or edge hex.

Rating: D

Coiling Darkness: This is pretty good because it’s any phase, unlike the previous card. 2 glory is quite attractive and is fairly easy to set up given how Slythael can start teleporting off the bat, which also takes care of the attack action requirement.

Rating: B

Fighting in the Shade: Love the 300 reference. It’s a lot of work for a 1 glory [whu card type image iconKeep Chopping]Keep Chopping card image - hover (shoutout to Gorah). If it was 2 glory, I wouldn’t mind forcing the attacks. Valyssa can count for 2 attacks herself though so something to consider.

Rating: C

Nowhere to Hide: I think this is a very easy card to score for this warband. Shadow Ambush unlocks a lot of ways to do this. And as we’ll see with their power cards, being in a cover hex during the action phase can be a trivial affair.

Rating: A

Prolonging the Inevitable: This is an interesting card because 9/10 times I am going to want to kill an enemy fighter via a one-shot. So what we’re essentially weighing here is it worth 2 glory for you to not kill any enemy fighter and potentially take damage in a following activation/round? I don’t think so. Especially because canny opponents can deny this via a heal or wound upgrade in a best 2/3.

Rating: C

Sadistic Tendencies: Insane card art and kind of ironic because the condition for this card is the inspire for Wurmspat. That’s meta. For 1 glory, I do think it’s a lot of work to do. That being said, this warband has the ping damage and range to get this off should you want to. Especially when you mix in the universal card pool.

Rating: C

Savour the Kill: It’s a little bit easier when compared to the previous vulnerable objective. That being said, it’s not reliable enough and it’s only 1 glory. Your opponent controls this more than you do.

Rating: D

Strike the Head: We’ve seen a lot of cards like these and it’s going to be the same answer here. Enemy leaders are hard to kill, and when you do take them out, you need to have this in your hand. These kind of cards will hold you back from making the optimal decisions. Best to avoid them.

Rating: D

The Shadows Deepen: So I like this card because what we see in the current meta is you’re going to have warbands who invade your cover hexes or warbands who just want to camp feature tokens. Keep in mind, I am only looking at the second condition here which is similar to [whu card type image iconLost in Shadow]Lost in Shadow card image - hover. There is a small mind game but ultimately can be counter-able in a best 2/3. It also is slightly meta dependent. It’s cool card that works when it works but will hurt you more often than not I think.

Rating: C

Umbral Raid: I like this card. It’s a variation of [whu card type image iconUnafraid]Unafraid card image - hover. Now while the pitfalls of that card, and this one, can put you in awkward situations. Example: you might avoid taking an enemy fighter out of action in order to score the 2 glory. That being said, I think is very controllable due to Shadow Ambush.

Rating: B

Unseen Malice: I think this is probably an auto-include given how powerful your leader is. Once inspired, your warband can provide insurance in scoring this, if you need it. It is meta dependent but I like it enough given how much synergy it has with your warband’s core mechanic.

Rating: A

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Gambits:

Abyssal Summoning: I like that’s its a channel. Shadow counters as a mechanic are very cool and provide amazing synergy with what this warband is trying to do; and compliments the universal card pool very well. While casting this via a level 1 wizard isn’t guaranteed, it’s going to happen more often than not.

Rating: B

Gloomweb Hex: Another single channel spell is a welcome sight. -1 dice to opposing attack actions can be pretty nice. -2 dice is doable as you can almost guarantee your key fighters being in a cover hex. That being said, your opponent can just charge someone else if possible to reduce the penalty. Also, the spell can fail so it’s not something you can count on. It also only lasts for one activation so I think you’re hoping for a bunch of things to align.

Rating: C

Impenetrable Darkness: This is very good, especially earlier in the round. Giving everyone a shadow counter is awesome as it improves their survivability, can help you score surges, and provide additional synergies with other gambits and upgrades. Keep in mind it stays until the end of the round, even if you charge/move after gaining it.

Rating: A

Rippling Darkness: Ping damage is awesome, especially when everyone loves being in cover hexes and it can set up an inspire/kill. Pair this with [whu card type image iconLethal Ward]Lethal Ward card image - hover for some ping damage goodness.

Rating: A

Shadestalker Darts: I love this card. It’s a free attack action in the game which can be modified by upgrades that are equipped. It can help you score Fighting in the Shade if you need it to, while also allowing you to setup an inspire, or fulfill the inspire condition. You can also push an enemy off a feature token, or into a lethal. Additionally, this allows you to score [whu card type image iconBranching Fate]Branching Fate card image - hover in the power step as well which is pretty neat!

Rating: A

Shadow Binding: Heals are cool but weaker on lower wound models. I think it’s okay for your leader though, especially through how she can almost always guarantee that she’ll be in a cover hex. Especially if you are trying to avoid the new large penalty.

Rating: C

Smoke and Mirrors: This card is wild. In conjunction with how you can manipulate the number of cover tokens, the amount of reach this provides this warband is amazing. You can do so many cool things and essentially get to any target you want to reach. A fighter can charge via Shadow Ambush, then play this card, and set up a second fighter to make an attack. That’s just one example, there are many more that can be pulled off via this card.

Rating: A

Suffocating Shadows: Effectively, this is an accuracy card. It’s obviously better if the target is an a cover hex but how often are fighters going to have 3 defense nowadays? Not many. Still, dropping a fighter from 2 dodge to 1 dodge is pretty darn good, especially because they like to camp on those cover hexes. I think I might be rating it a little higher than it should be, but I like how this can help you take down fighters that set themselves up to be a bit more sticky than usual. Really good with your leader’s malleable ability too. However it is meta dependent because, in some matchups, this could be a dead card because the opposing fighters don’t get to two defense dice.

Rating: B

Tenebreal Manipulation: It’s good. This the third card that gives out shadow counters so I am starting to think, are you going to run all 3? Probably not. That being said, I think I take this one and Impenetrable Darkness. Cool thing about this one, you can give this to an enemy as well which helps you do some cool things. Lot’s of options and augments an integral part of the warband’s game plan.

Rating: A

Vanish into the Gloom: This is the second teleport in gambit form. That’s really good. Being able to relocate at a whim and set up for some great attack actions is amazing. Being able to retreat at a moment’s notice is nice. It can also contribute to you scoring surges that revolve around cover hexes. Not to mention you have two range 2 fighters and a range 3 fighters. This is great!

Rating: A

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Upgrades:

Abyssal Guidance: This card is amazing. Again, with how you can essentially live within cover hexes with this warband, this makes this a great accuracy boon.

Rating: A

Aided by Darkness: While it’s weaker than it’s universal and more ubiquitous counterparts, I still think it’s a great card for the same reasons I’ve mentioned a couple times now. This warband is very good at being in cover hexes consistently.

Rating: A

Amulet of Darnkess: I historically like cards that give my fighters a second wizard level. If you want to play into the spell side of things, this is going to be a must for you. That being said, Sylarc isn’t the most survivable fighter in the game so this could end up not working out in a best 2/3, especially when your opponent is wise to your tricks. The spell action is cool but ultimately not worth an action.

Rating: C

Dusklure Bracers: I like the idea of this but in a game that loves the one-shot lifestyle, the stock on this card isn’t’ very high. It’s more fun, and useful, in Rivals/Rivals+ rather than championship. Keep in mind you can still use it even if you get one-shot, but that’s why I don’t like it. It’s one use most times.

Rating: D

Mask of Shadowed Mirrors: This is a great card. Anytime we see cards like these, they generally see play. In some matchups, this can be devastating. Keeping your leader alive longer, without going large can be a great way to keep the pressure up. She’s so powerful it’s worth keeping her alive.

Rating: A

Rapid Fire: I like this card, it’s effectively [whu card type image iconRapid Reload]Rapid Reload card image - hover which is an old favorite of mine. Unlike that card, you can take two shots every single time you use it, rather than just the first time. This plays into the ping damage aspect of things. It allows Sylarc to inspire himself while also push some damage with the help of cards like [whu card type image iconGloryseeker]Gloryseeker card image - hover and [whu card type image iconFighter’s Ferocity]Fighter’s Ferocity card image - hover. While chilling in a cover hex, he can be a potent turret.

Rating: B

Ruthless Aim: Vulnerable stuff again is too niche for me to like it. The reaction is neat but you have better sources of shadow counters via gambits.

Rating: C

Shadewalker: Slythael is already flying. The +1 move is nice but it’s just a fancy [whu card type image iconGreat Speed]Great Speed card image - hover and that’s not a very desirable card in general.

Rating: D

Umbral Glaive: A one time attack action restricted to a 3 wound fighter who starts on 1 dodge doesn’t inspire confidence. Range 3, 3 smash, 1 damage grievous isn’t worth the risk of you potentially not being able to use it. Also Drusylla’s range 2 attack is just too good to not use.

Rating: D

Voidling: This is a fantastic card. Gaining more accuracy and defensibility from a single card makes for a very strong combination.  Couple that with how easy it is for your fighters to be in cover hexes and you’ve got yourself an auto-include for your deck.

Rating: A

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Final Thoughts:

I think this warband is very, very cool. There’s a lot to unpack here and even more to digest. That being said, they’re without a doubt the most agile warband in this game in terms of movement. They can be literally be anywhere you want them to be.

The objective deck is a bit on the weaker side but there’s enough meat here to where you can have a solid base to work off. Interestingly, this warband’s objective deck is pushing dealing damage via ping and vulnerable stuff but I think it’s counter intuitive to how we should be playing the game – one shots. But, there are some decent enough cards.

The strength of this deck lies in their gambits and upgrades. They synergies available work so well in this current edition of the game. Cover hexes are everywhere and in high demand. Hell, you even get to make your own! And you get benefits for being them and targeting fighters in them.

I find this warband to be one that is going to have a very high skill ceiling. If you dedicate enough time to master their craft, they’re going to be a terror on the field. Just be careful in the early game.

I’m excited to see how the strength of this warband evolves as we get more universals.

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If you think this warband would make an excellent addition to your collection, be sure to head on down to your local Warhammer Store or FLGS to order yourself a copy of The Exiled Dead. If you prefer to shop online, check this out here this Saturday. 

As always, best of luck on YOUR [whu card type image iconPath to Glory]Path to Glory card image - hover!

Aman

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Aman

Blogger, Podcast Host

Competitive player who loves to attend events and theory craft. Always chasing the next piece of shade glass. 

Favorite Warband: The Farstriders

Jonathan

Blogger, Podcast Host

Loves to discuss all aspects of the game, especially events. Enjoys the data behind the game and is also competitively focused.

Favorite Warband: Spiteclaw's Swarm

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